How to Prevent Pet Allergies during Holiday Travel
How to Prevent Pet Allergies (holiday travel tips)
Because… come on… wouldn’t you love to be able to cuddle this?
Prevent your Pet Allergies? Yay!
Every year, 43-44 million people travel at least 50 miles from home for Thanksgiving and nearly 99 million people travel during the entire holiday season. One thing that I’ve learned after my years of being an allergist: every one of these travelers go to a home with a cat, dog or both!
For all my pet allergy sufferers, this means that all your hard work trying to control your or your child’s allergies is about to be completely disrupted!
Except that I have a plan for you!
There are two types of people that I would like to read this article:
- If you or someone in your family suffers from pet allergy, then please read this post.
- If you have pet allergic family or friends coming to your house, then please read this post.
And if you don’t fall into these first two categories, but you just want to read an awesome post, then I think this is a pretty great post to read as well.
Preventing Pet Allergy – Who’s Responsible?
After every holiday season, I have patients who see me because their allergies increased, their son’s eczema flared, or after their daughter’s asthma worsened and these patients tell me that their family should have done more to prevent these exacerbations from happening. I’ve been told countless times these patient’s family’s house caused their allergy problems to worsen and they see me angry and frustrated.
Let me tell you, I understand your frustration!
It is difficult to spend so much of your time trying to keep your, your spouse, or your child’s allergies under control only to see those allergies worsen after visiting your family or friends. At the time, it even feels right to blame them.
But before you start pointing fingers, I would ask you to CONSIDER this:
- If your family or friend does not have allergies, it is very difficult for them to understand what you’re going through.
- If you have spent years working to control your or your child’s symptoms then it is difficult for your family or friend to be at that level without some help.
I’m not suggesting you have to ‘just accept’ that your or your child’s allergies will always be bad after travel. I’m only saying that your family or friends may not fully understand your situation or even how to help!
I understand how frustrating it is to spend so much time keeping your, your spouse or your child’s allergies, asthma or eczema controlled… only to see it get worse after visiting a family or friend’s house!
My goal with this post is to give you the power to PREVENT this from happening!
This article’s goal is to help you fix your pet allergy travel concerns in two ways:
- First, I’ll provide some easy suggestions to share with your family or friends so that they can do as much as possible to help your / your family’s allergies
- Second, I’ll provide a few steps that you can do BEFORE your trip to help take control of the situation and make your travel as enjoyable as possible.
Note: if you are visiting someone’s house who has pets, consider sharing this article with them first! It will make your trip a lot more enjoyable:
Preparing for family or friends with allergies
This section is written specifically for everyone who DOESN’T have a personal history of allergies BUT HAVE FAMILY OR FRIENDS visiting your house who do. My request to you: there are small, simple steps you can do to help your pet allergic family or friends enjoy your house for their trip.
If you don’t have allergies yourself, it is difficult to understand what people with pet allergies go through. So let me give you the best possible comparison:
Think of your last cold. Try to remember how miserable you were: you couldn’t breathe through your nose, you had a lot of drainage and coughing, your nose was bothering you and no medicine helped. Think about how bad you slept and how much you would have done to make it go away.
Now realize that your family or friends with allergies have these symptoms ALL THE TIME (oh, except they also have itching and eye symptoms).
If they have a pet allergy, then your pets will trigger them to either have these symptoms or to make these symptoms worse.
My reason for posting this description is not to ‘pet shame you’ (that’s probably a thing, right? If not, I hope I didn’t just invent a new form of negativity)! Instead, my goal is to show your pet allergic family/friend’s point of view… and also to give you a few tips below on how you can help your family or friend’s stay be even more enjoyable!
5 simple things you can do BEFORE your pet allergic family/friend’s visit
- Keep your pets out of your guest’s bedroom
- Ideally you would start this a week or longer before their visit.
- But starting at any time is a great help.
- Vacuum your guest’s room once a day for about 5-7 days before their trip
- You do not need to get a super-Dyson HEPA-filter vacuum (although they are pretty amazing!) Any vacuum will do.
- It is more important to vacuum multiple times rather than just once. Just think that each time gets more dander out of the bedroom.
- Remember to keep the guest room door shut when you’re done – You don’t want all your hard work to go to waste!
- Change your furnace air filter
- This is a simple step that will make a huge difference!
- You don’t need to buy the super expensive allergy filters. In fact, I recommend you don’t. Get the least expensive filter that looks like a zig-zag and change it a day or so before your guest arrives.
- Try to clean the more common areas of the house
- If your house is like mine, there is an endless supply of aggressive pet hair bunnies (the Monty Python form of a dust bunny) in every corner of your house.
- If your house is also like mine, you won’t even notice these until your guest arrives and you’re apologizing for the small shiatsu that has spontaneously formed from the unswept pet hair.
- Do your best to clean these other areas. Vacuuming is important, particularly in carpeted areas.
- But know that your priority is the bedroom. Do that before anything else.
What I hope you noticed is that these tips are not overly time demanding, are not expensive, and are not difficult. You probably also notice that I spent the majority of your time fixing your guest bedroom. Why?
If you think about it, your guest room is the one place in the entire house where your pet allergic family/friend will spend the majority of their time (by sleeping there). This is why it is so important to focus on making the bedroom an allergy-protected space.
Your guest room is the one room in the entire house where your pet allergic family/friend will spend the most time (8 hours a night, right?!). Making your guest room an allergy-free area is the single BEST way to help your family/friends have the best, allergy-free trip
1 BONUS trick to make you their BEST family/friend
If I had to ask one thing of you, it would be to follow the steps above and make your guest room a pet allergy free space.
But if you want to win a 5 star Yelp review, then get some antihistamines and put them in a bowl in your family/friend’s room. At my house, I have these two things permanently in my guest room:
- Antihistamine tablets (for adults and older kids)
- Children’s antihistamine liquid (for younger kids)
In my house, it’s become a running joke that the guest room has all the allergy medications you’d ever need. That one, simple step has allowed many of my pet allergic friends to visit and to grab a rescue medication if they need it. (It has, sadly, also become a running joke that my guest room has spiders. We have Orkin spraying this year and I am being aggressive about stopping that rumor. But winter in Colorado brings all the spiders to the yard… and then the house).
If you want to go over the top, I recommend you read this post on the best over the counter antihistamines and grab those. Or if you have any questions, please just ask me and I’ll gladly help.
LIKE my Facebook page if you want more slightly sarcastic but pretty informative posts like these!
Preventing Pet Allergy Symptoms
Ok, back to you – my pet allergic reader.
The prior section was dedicated to giving your family and friends the information they need to make your trip better. If you notice your family/friends do these things, please make sure to compliment them and praise their efforts.
But you can’t rely on your family/friend’s actions being enough. Which is why I have this next section dedicated to the simple steps you can take NOW to make your travel most enjoyable.
Make sure your symptoms are controlled
Before starting any of the prevention steps, you need to make sure your/your child’s symptoms are controlled BEFORE heading on your trip. If your symptoms are not controlled now, why would they be controlled when exposed to a pet environment?
Going into your trip with controlled symptoms will be the single best way to make your holiday travel the most enjoyable. If you have any specific questions not addressed by these articles, please email me and I’ll be happy to help.
Ramp up allergy medication 5-7 days BEFORE your trip
If you have pet allergies and your symptoms are already well controlled, then your next step is to temporarily ramp up your medications and shift into a ‘prevention mindset.’ The best way to do this is to increase your allergy control by one level.
What do I mean?
- Option 1: if your allergies are well controlled with ‘as needed’ antihistamines, then increase to once a day antihistamines for 5-7 days BEFORE your trip.
- Option 2: if your allergies are well controlled with daily antihistamines, then add a nasal steroid for at least 7 days (ideally 2 weeks) BEFORE your trip.
- Option 3: if your allergies need daily nasal steroids and daily antihistamines to maintain control, ask your provider about getting azelastine nose spray and adding it for 5-7 days BEFORE your trip.
- Finally, option 4: if your allergies are not well controlled with any of these steps… I don’t have a quick solution plan for you this holiday season but if you email me we can create a plan to make sure you have the right diagnosis and get your allergies under better control for the future.
If you feel comfortable adjusting your medications on your own then simply follow the above steps and you WILL be better prepared to visit your family/friend’s house with pets.
Or email me with a short description of your concerns and I will create a personalized plan for your travel.
Why treat BEFORE travel?
The reason I emphasize increasing your allergy medications before you travel is because it is EASIER TO PREVENT ALLERGIES than to treat them after they have worsened (this is due to something called the priming effect. A mildly interesting topic beyond the scope of this article but one you can request if you want).
So please, do your best to get ahead of your/your child’s allergy symptoms before you travel to a pet-loving environment.
Bonus tips for eczema and asthma
This article is largely dedicated to my pet allergic readers. But if you or your child has eczema or asthma I have a few tips for you as well.
For preventing pet-induced asthma attacks
If you want to prevent pet exposure from worsening asthma, there are 3 key steps you need to do:
- Make sure you have well controlled asthma before your trip
- Aggressively treat allergies
- One of the keys to achieving asthma control is good allergy control. Why? 60% of adults with asthma have allergic triggers… and 90% of kids with asthma have allergic triggers!
- Have your family/friends implement the guest room steps outlined above
- Increase your own/your child’s allergy treatment as I wrote above
- Bring your rescue inhaler
- For some of my patients, I increase their controller medication before trips. But I still tell my patient’s to bring their rescue inhaler.
- If you start to notice asthma symptoms, use your rescue inhaler. It’s better to use it earlier than to wait until ‘the symptoms are more severe.”
- Again, it is easier to prevent than it is to regain control after an asthma attack
For preventing a pet-induced eczema flare
As I’ve mentioned in a past article, eczema is a skin problem and properly treating the skin is the first step. But external triggers (like pet dander) worsens eczema for many kids and adults.
Here are 3 key steps you can do to help prevent an eczema flare:
- First, improve your eczema before your trip
- Yes, this is getting crazy repetitive by now, but this is VERY IMPORTANT. Improving your/your child’s eczema before you travel is the first step towards success.
- Read this article on how to get eczema under control before you travel.
- Stress to your family/friend the importance of making an “allergy-safe guest room”
- Contact with pet dander worsens eczema.
- Have your family or friend prepare their guest room (with the simple steps written above). It will not only help pet allergy symptoms but also reduce the amount of pet dander contact you/your child will have.
- If you haven’t already done so, consider sharing this post with your family/friends. They’ll be able to started early to make your trip the best one yet.
- Bring your topical steroid cream and use it if symptoms start to appear
- Option 1: if your/your child’s eczema is well controlled with moisturizer alone, consider bringing an over the counter hydrocortisone with you.
- Option 2: if you normally need a low dose steroid cream for eczema control, consider bringing a stronger topical steroid with you.
- If you start to notice eczema patches, use the steroid cream early! To reiterate, it is easier to PREVENT than it is to wait and treat after your/your child’s eczema has flared.
Does This Plan Sound Reasonable?
This article is a lot of common sense ideas put together into one solid plan. It may seem overly simple to you, but I assure you these are the correct steps to prevent pet allergies. Side bonus: this holiday season the best one yet (from an allergy perspective. I can’t stop inevitable awkward family comments, arguments, or tension).
If you made it this far in the article, I would like to ask 3 things of you:
- If you have any questions, PLEASE ask me! I want to help you create a plan to prevent pet allergies!
- Consider sharing this on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter. Pet allergies are very common and, as you now know, these steps are SIMPLE. Sharing this post would help many people feel better (and probably save hundreds of dollars on after-holiday medical visits)
- If you like what you’ve read, consider liking my page on Facebook. It would really make my month!